Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Wally Oppal identifies “blatant failures” in B.C. missing women inquiry report

with 7 comments

The headline comes from the Georgia Straight. A lot of people – including some of the groups most immediately impacted – dismissed the process long before the report was even written.

However I am sure that they will endorse this summary

In a 1,448-page report released today (December 17), Wally Oppal writes that the police investigations included a failure to “consider and properly pursue all investigative strategies” and a “general systemic failure to address cross-jurisdictional issues and ineffective co-ordination between police forces and agencies”.

The official recommendations include a call for the B.C. government to establish a Greater Vancouver police force.

On this blog I have been making this plea for some time – and so have others, including some lo cal police chiefs.

If you were to design a policing structure for the region, would you design one like ours? Not in a million years.”

The opportunity to get rid of the RCMP seems to have been muffed. But this situation cannot be allowed to continue.

UPDATE Tuesday December 18

The following is taken from Mayor Gregor Robertson’s statement

On the specific issue of a regional police force, this is an approach I have supported in the past and believe is crucial to improving public safety and policing in the region. I am hopeful that the Province will quickly commit to establishing a Metro Vancouver police force as recommended in the report.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 17, 2012 at 9:16 pm

Posted in regional government

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7 Responses

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  1. I’m reticent to knock the RCMP as I have worked with many great individual members over the years at the committee level, including women officers. However, it is clear that interjurisdictional issues are harder to resolve with so many disparate law enforcement entities. Even car chases require extra coordination when the activity crosses municipal boundaries.

    A regional force does make a lot of sense in the context of the Picton tragedy, a case which, combined with gangs, resulted in a regional major crimes unit. However, consider that a regional force will not consist of entirely new members. They will be the same RCMP and municipal officers working today who will merely change uniforms and have a different logo on their paycheques and vehicles.

    So this would be an ideal event to also instill a new management mandate and better training, a time for management to change and modernize to reflect our demographics and gender balance. They could start by appointing a female police chief. This could comprise one aspect of what would someday be an effective regional government.

    But so much of police work is at the local neighbourhood level irrespective of the regional structure. This is where the effectiveness of individual members really counts. The compassionate beat cop will always afford respect in the community, including the downtown eastside.

    Stephen, do you have any information on London’s police force? I assume they have had a regional force for a long time.


    December 18, 2012 at 10:39 am

  2. Frances Bula also has a post on the missing women’s inquiry. There has been a sea change in the attitude of the VPD and city administration since the Picton case erupted.

    Police reports on prostitution … have plummeted in the last 10 years, now a tenth of what they used to be. The Vancouver police department has a new draft policy on dealing with people involved in sex work, and an officer, Linda Malcolm, dedicated as a liaison to the sex-worker trade.

    The city has also been looking at its bylaws and licencing to deal with sex work taking place at operating businesses (some with permits, some without) in different ways, so that its staff are targeting actual problems (noise, exploitation, criminal behaviour, coercion, neighbourhood disruption) as opposed to trying to regulate the sex business.

    We often think of women on the street when we think of sex for sale. They are the most visible aspect of any city’s usually flourishing sex trade, and they are the ones who are the most vulnerable.

    But a growing group of researchers, policy makers, women working in the business, and others are making clear — in spite of the criticism they get from others — that they represent only 10-20 per cent of the sex industry in any town, and that sex workers are far better off doing business indoors than on the street.


    December 18, 2012 at 11:24 am

  3. The Metropolitan Police Act founded London’s regional police service in 1829.

    The earlier blog posts I linked to task about that – or try wikipedia for a complete history. You may have heard of Sir Robert Peel but no-one outside of Hollywood calls them “bobbies” or “Peelers”

    Stephen Rees

    December 18, 2012 at 11:24 am

  4. I personally am leaning more and more towards the establishment of a Vancouver Metropolitan Police for the Lower Mainland. In my (admittedly very in-expert) opinion, the RCMP and local police jurisdiction issues are a compelling reason to consider making this change, especially given the need for common management of the region’s police forces. The RCMP’s management it seems is more geared towards their role as Provincial Police.

    Still there are significant problems with the possible establishment of a Vancouver Metropolitan Police. For one thing, given the complete mess that is the region’s most visible common institution, Translink, we need to broadly address questions of regional governance. I’d like to think our municipal leaders would show more respect and maturity when dealing with police questions, but prior experience suggests that would not be the case. In effect, we would be handing off control of police matters to Victoria.

    Also, will this Vancouver Metropolitan Police take over only the local and community policing, or will it also become something like the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary which effectively serves as the local and provincial police in Newfoundland’s urban areas, while the RCMP serves as both in the outlying areas? This is an important consideration because that will also impact future coordination between the RCMP and this new agency, as well as who has jurisdiction over the new agency, the province or the region.

    It all comes back to those questions of regional governance and without some kind of effective reform there, moving forward on a new police agency seems to be fraught with difficulty.

    Jack Hope (@jackshope)

    December 18, 2012 at 3:03 pm

  5. Also worth noting that Vancouver and Victoria are the only two major cities in Canada to have policing organized in this fragmented fashion.

    Stephen Rees

    December 18, 2012 at 3:31 pm

  6. The problem is that you have areas with “over policing” and “under policing”. Places like Delta, Port Moody and West Vancouver have their own forces where the motto is “no call is too small”. They will respond to those noise complaints and other items that big city forces might regard as nuisance concerns but are the bread and butter for policing for quieter communities.

    On the other hand. Vancouver and Surrey are overwhelmed by Policing demands by virtue of the social concerns that larger municipalities attract. Their problems are big city problems that the smaller cities prefer to think of themselves as “better than”.

    Its a prickly problem for politicians as those who enjoy “over policing” tend to vote more than those who are “under policed”. If you are in a community with resources to share, a vote to share those resources is political suicide. On the other hand, where there is under policing and you are an advocate of more, chances are you already have all the support you are going to get. There are those who are philosophically opposed to more policing and will be unlikely to change their views.

    To fix the situation call for senior government to step in and provide a more mature and global perspective than at the local level. Unfortunately as we have seen in matters of public transit, the Province is completely and utterly incapable of the task. The Feds view the issue as something beneath them and there you have it…the status quo reigns supreme. The vexing problem is that when you take all the bully and bluster away….both the BC Liberals and NDP have proven themselves equally incompetent in dealing with these sorts of issues. So much political power resides in the Lower Mainland that Provincial politics teds to mimic what is happening on the local level….while somehow magically escaping the consequences for inaction from the electorate.

    All this provides indication of what the problem is, but not the way out. The way out is for somebody, somewhere with the ability to bring in change to actually show some leadership here. The issues are the same whether they be policing or public transit. Somebody is going to have to make some unpopular decisions for the greater good. Nobody seems willing or able to to that so the status quo remains.

    Personally I’ve said I’ve had enough and jumped ship and moved to Alberta. Others go other places. Some stay put. BC and the Lower Mainland quite frankly deserve better than that. So far the concerns have fallen on deaf ears. The extremely rich and the extremely poor with no room left for anybody in between. If you want evidence….just look at the data for what shape the City of Vancouver will be in should the “big quake” happen in the middle of the night. All your first responders…..and many of your doctors even….will be stuck south of the Fraser. Vancouver is stuck with whoever happens to be on duty at the time.

    South of Fraser is the middle class ghetto. The servants come in to assist those with greater means during the day. I have no solution to fix it, but it is what it is. Those that do the heavy lifting will always look after their own back yard….their own families….first. The fact they’ve been all been chased away somewhere else and the effects of that seem to be lost on those who are themselves most affected by that.


    December 18, 2012 at 10:26 pm

  7. @ Der Alte:

    To fix the situation call for senior government to step in and provide a more mature and global perspective than at the local level. […] Personally I’ve said I’ve had enough and jumped ship and moved to Alberta.

    Having come from Alberta I find the Lower Mainland, warts and all, practices a much more mature urbanism and has a more diverse economy (i.e. oil ain’t everything) and cultural heritage than Calgary or Edmonton. This may be by dint of its geography where high national and international population pressures are exerted on a land base constrained by the sea, the mountains and the ALR, but nonetheless it’s light years ahead of Cowtown which unfortunately suffers from a one-horse economy and an abundance of undervalued and unprotected agricultural land at its edges. Compared to European cities, there may again be a similar jump in the quality of urbanism over Vancouver, and they may therein be considered models.

    Our constitution fobs responsibility for cities off to the provinces, and successive federal governments have happily obliged devolving their power as such. This is backwards and weakens federalism, and I can’t think of any other advanced Western industrial nation that legitimizes ignoring its own cities where 85% of its constituents live.

    Should a new federal government that values cities one day get elected, then it may approach funding urban regional infrastructure like transit to a much higher and more appropriate level with conditions, such as an elected regional government that oversees regional policing, transit and infrastructure while honouring neighbourhood concerns.

    If you were the prime minister and had a mandate to do something realistic about climate change and energy and food security, wouldn’t you tie conditions to billions of federal dollars being directed to cities for transit, energy grants, police force restructuring costs, etc?


    December 20, 2012 at 10:37 am

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